Getting a Japanese Driver's License
CONVERTING SOFA LICENSE TO JAPANESE DRIVER'S LICENSE
If you will be changing from SOFA status to a Japanese visa, it's possible to obtain your Japanese driver's license without having to go to driving school or take a written or practical driving test (a notoriously difficult, tedious, and expensive process here in Japan).
If you are not currently SOFA status, you will likely need to take the driving test and this article won't apply to you.
Important note: I try to keep information on here updated as much as possible, but processes do change and some information may no longer be accurate. Please use this information as a general starting point. Last updated: Feb. 2022.
STEP 1: Gather Documents
Prepare documents to show to the Japanese Driver's License Center
STEP 2: Visit Japanese Driver's License Center
It's best to visit the Japanese Driver's License Center before you lose SOFA status. Ideally 30 days before, so you can be sure you have all the proper paperwork ready.
STEP 3: Obtain Official Translation of Driver's License
You'll need to get your current driver's license translated by the Japan Automobile Federation
STEP 4: End SOFA Status
Obtain SOFA cancellation paperwork from base
STEP 5: Stop Driving
After losing SOFA status, it's likely that you can no longer legally drive; even with an International Driver's Permit
STEP 6: Obtain Japanese Visa
Work with Japanese immigration to obtain your Japanese visa.
STEP 7: Register with Your City Office
Go to your residential city office to register and obtain your residence certificate "Juminhyo"
STEP 8: Visit Japanese Driver's License Center
Return to the diving office again to turn in your paperwork and obtain your Japanese Driver's License